How much food you consume does matter, when it comes to both health and fat loss. Because of this many of us tend to think about how many calories and macros (carbs, protein, fat), we consume instead of the overall quality. While the ratio of macros and amount of calories you consume absolutely matters in the overall scope of things, I feel that it all starts with quality and how many nutrients density (minerals, chlorophyll, phytonutrients, amino acids, omega-3, 6, 9 fatty-acids), you receive from foods.
So, instead of starting out by counting calories and macros, try building sound daily habits to get as much nutrient density in your body each day. Over time I have found that building up to about 5 foods you consume each day can make a huge impact on your health and your mindset towards eating. It sets you up for success, even if you have a few pops at a party or tackle the large pepperoni pizza with your family and friends. By building daily nutritional habits you will feel much better both mentally and physically by simply consuming some nutrient-dense foods.
Below are 5 of my favorite that I personally do everyday. You can pick your own 5, as there are many fantastic options to choose from. Just be sure that between the 5 foods that they have ample omega-fatty acids, amino acids, minerals, phytonutrients, chlorophyll, and more.
NOTE: Many people ask me why I did not include a high-protein food like beef or protein powder in my list. I did this primarily because it seems to be much easier to eat a protein rich meal, rather than find these types of foods on the go or at a traditional meal. So, if you struggle with protein, grass-fed beef, grass-fed whey, organic eggs, etc. may be a good option for you.
1. Super Seeds
Flaxseeds are tiny, hard seeds, golden or brown; chia seeds are granular and dark in color, and hemp seeds are soft and light in color. Flaxseeds and chia seeds are high in omega-3 essential fatty acids (ALA). Hemp seeds are high in omega-6 essential fatty acids (LA and GLA), along with being high in protein. Flaxseeds are not digestible, so to reap the wonderful health benefits, the seeds must be ground into flax meal. Use a coffee grinder and grind up a week’s worth and store in the refrigerator. Do not buy flax meal already ground as it oxidizes quickly and loses its potency. Grinding chia and hemp is optional.
Along with being high in omega-3 fats, flax and chia seeds are high in fiber, antifungal, antibacterial, and can be added to a small glass of juice, your favorite smoothie, salad, or cereal. Hemp seeds have a nutty flavor and taste great. Take by the spoonful or added to your favorite salad.
Hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant but does not contain THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, so don’t worry about any side effects. Hemp is worldwide, one of the most widely utilized and diverse industrial crops. Its fibers are also considered the longest and most durable of all natural fibers, and can even be grown without deadly herbicides and pesticides.
It is rich in Gamma-Linolenic acid (GLA), which is a necessary building block for some prostaglandins — hormone-like chemicals in the body that help smooth muscles, control inflammation and body temperature, and are vital to other body functions. Researchers have surmised that GLA supplementation is necessary for proper hormone health.
Chia Seed Snapshot
First, chia seeds are a great source of Omega-3 ALA, dietary fiber, minerals, and has a high ORAC value (antioxidants). The antioxidant power of chia seeds can help skin repair and reduce inflammation and free radical damage.
Chia is super-high in fiber, providing nearly 11 grams per ounce. One serving can provide the recommended fiber intake for the day, according to the American Dietetic Association.
Chia seeds (salvia hispanica) have become one of the most popular superfoods in the health community. They’re easy to digest when prepared properly and a very versatile ingredient that adds easily to recipes. Plus, chia seeds benefits are plentiful.
The chia seed is nutrient-dense and packs a punch of energy-boosting power. Aztec warriors ate chia seeds to give them high energy and endurance. They said just one spoonful of chia could sustain them for 24 hours. Chia means “strength” in the Mayan language. Chia seeds, known as “runners’ food,” were used by runners and warriors as fuel while running long distances or during battle.
Not only that, but recent research has found that the chia seeds benefits are even greater than we realized. Chia seeds benefits include promoting healthy skin, reducing signs of aging, supporting the heart and digestive system, helping reduce diabetes, building stronger bones and muscles, and more.
Flaxseeds contain anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids (although not the same type that fish, such as salmon, do) along with antioxidant substances called lignans that help promote hormonal balance in addition to several other benefits of flaxseed.
Benefits of flaxseed also include helping improve digestion, giving you clearer skin, lowering cholesterol, reducing sugar cravings, balancing hormones and even helping fight cancer.
Flaxseeds are small, brown, golden, or tan colored seeds loaded with fiber and key minerals manganese, thiamine, and magnesium. Flax also contains a significant source of plant-based protein. Flax is one of the richest sources of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, called alpha-linolenic acid (or ALA), in the world. Another great benefit to flax is that they are one of, if not the largest source of plant lignans in the human diet.
Flaxseeds have been shown to potentially lower cholesterol, lower heart disease due to its high amount of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) – a healthy source of polyunsaturated fat. One of its key benefits that are not talked about is its antioxidant powerhouse. The lignans in flax help reduce inflammation, free radical damage, and help balance hormones.
Lastly, flax is an amazing food that can help improve digestion. Many people do not get enough fiber, prebiotics, thus not producing enough good gut bacteria. Not having a well-rounded digestive system can lead to issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, increased inflammation, and a weaker immune system. the ALA in flax can help reduce inflammation and protect the lining of the GI tract. Flaxseed is beneficial for people suffering from Crohn’s disease and other digestive ailments. In addition, it promotes beneficial gut flora even in people with “normal” digestive systems. The fiber found in flaxseeds also provides food for friendly bacteria in your colon that can help cleanse waste from your system.
Summary of Benefits of Super Seeds
- High in omega-3 fats
- High fiber source
- Supports heart health
- Boosts cellular health
- Decreases inflammation
- Aids weight loss
- Reduces food craving
- Lowers risk of diabetes
- Low expense
- 1 to 3 tablespoons per day of each for adults, depending on goals, activity level, weight, etc.
- 1 tablespoon per day for children.
2. Coconut Oil
Despite what you may hear in the media, saturated fat has many health benefits. One of the best ways to get healthy saturated fats in your diet is by consuming coconut or organic virgin coconut oil.
Coconut is a healthy saturated fat that is rich in lauric, capric, and caprylic acids, which are loaded with antiviral, and antifungal properties. More than just a sustainable food crop, every part of the coconut tree is useful to mankind, including the roots, trunks, leaves, husks, fiber, fruit, water, sap, milk, and meat, making coconut a very valuable crop and food to eat.
Another unique benefit of coconut oil is that it contains shorter chain fatty acids called Medium-Chain Triglycerides. Because of the shorter chain of fatty acids, MCT’s are metabolized differently. This decreases their chance to store as fat and enhances their ability to be used as energy by being sent to the liver instead. MCT’s are easier to digest and have also been shown to increase the body’s metabolism.
Benefits of Coconut
- Aids digestion and nutrient absorption
- Promotes brain health
- Reduces risk of Alzheimer’s
- Boosts weight loss
- Promotes beautiful skin
- Improves thyroid function
- Supports heart health
- Reduces risk of type 2 diabetes
- High in antioxidants
- Promotes cellular health
This may be something that could go without saying but who doesn’t like chocolate?!?! I know that for me, chocolate is a food that I never plan on giving up. I am a big fan of dark chocolate or anything that is covered with chocolate! But not all chocolate is created equal. Some variations are loaded with sugar, hydrogenated oils, and even sometimes chemicals that your body does not want or need.
In recent years, there has been information in the media about how chocolate has many health benefits, and it does. But you must choose your chocolate wisely to reap the full benefits. The occasional dark chocolate bar every now and then is totally fine, and you will get some of the antioxidants and flavonoids it contains for health benefits. The cacao contained within the chocolate is where the magic is.
I recommend including some form of cacao (powder or nibs) into your diet whenever possible. It is the purest form of chocolate that you can get without all of the extra junk that can be put in a bar or piece of candy. Plus it tastes great both on its own and when added to other foods.
What is Cacao?
Cacao is chocolate, dark chocolate with very little sugar content. Cacao has been a staple in many cultures for centuries and has been labeled food of the gods due to its amazing health benefits. I like to use the cacao nibs in my super shakes, and the powder form in things like power pancakes and oatmeal. The nibs look like little pieces of chocolate so they can also be added to desserts and even trail mix. Both forms are versatile and tasty when added to many other foods and dishes.
There are many benefits to adding cacao to your food. Below is a short list of benefits with links to references and studies.
Benefits of Cacao
High in magnesium, manganese, zinc, and iron
4. Spirulina and Chlorella
These freshwater algae are especially great for strengthening the immune system and are a great way to stay energized. The tablets are created from algae at the source. The algae are molded into a tablet – making this supplement a real food. No processing or heating involved. Spirulina and chlorella are high in amino acids (protein) making it a great source for vegans or protein needs in general. It is also a good source of iodine. Iodine is necessary for a healthy thyroid and metabolism.
Spirulina with chlorella is an awesome superfood to take on the go. They are also good when you are not able to take your wheatgrass cubes. Ideally, you would want to take both wheatgrass and spirulina/chlorella since they do different things for the body (wheatgrass is the highest source of minerals, and spirulina/chlorella is especially great for the immune system). But, when you simply can’t take your wheatgrass or are the go- double up on your spirulina/chlorella for that extra dose of greens and cleansing chlorophyll. You can think of spirulina/chlorella as your travel multivitamin/mineral supplement. 15-20 minutes before you eat is the optimal time to take. Do not chew them and make sure to swallow them.
Chlorella is green algae that contain the highest amount of Protein, Chlorophyll and Nucleic Acids (RNA/DNA) of any Food. It also contains vitamins, minerals and lots of natural dietary fiber, which encourages better digestion and helps remove toxins from the body.
Spirulina is blue-green algae that also provide us with a broad array of nutrients, including antioxidants such as Phycocyanin and SOD. Spirulina is a high-energy food that is excellent for exercising. Both are complete foods with a natural balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Both are nutritionally dense and provide us with a broad array of nutrients.
Turmeric Curcumin is the “superstar of spices.” It is considered to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties due to its anti-oxidant powers. Oxidation of free radicals can damage cells and organs. Anti-oxidants can help prevent this from happening too much.
Turmeric has been clinically shown in many studies to help protect cells from free radical damage. This comes from the active compounds called curcuminoids.
Reducing inflammation is just one of the many benefits of Turmeric. This is the main reason why I promote its use. Many of my clients suffer from different types of inflammation, especially joint inflammation. I recommend these natural pain relievers instead of taking NSAIDs, (which I would never do anyway because I am not a doctor and the benefits of NSAIDs are only temporary). You need to be careful when buying this type of supplement because standards can vary quite a bit. Do your research!
Here are 10 benefits of taking Turmeric:
- Turmeric Contains Bioactive Compounds With Powerful Medicinal Properties
- Curcumin is a Natural Anti-Inflammatory Compound
- Turmeric Dramatically Increases The Antioxidant Capacity of The Body
- Curcumin Boosts Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, Linked to Improved Brain Function and a Lower Risk of Brain Diseases
- Curcumin Leads to Various Improvements That Should Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease
- Turmeric Can Help Prevent (And Perhaps Even Treat) Cancer
- Curcumin May be Useful in Preventing and Treating Alzheimer’s Disease
- Arthritis Patients Respond Very Well to Curcumin Supplementation
- Studies Show That Curcumin Has Incredible Benefits Against Depression
- Curcumin May Help Delay Aging and Fight Age-Related Chronic Diseases
If you don’t believe me, no problem! Thinking a spice can do all of these wonderful things does sound like a lot of voodoo but I am sold. I have taken it personally for years and have experienced some wonderful benefits.
The link to this article below also references a lot of studies for each one of these, and I took some of the benefits section from this article. Take a look if you wish!